Did you know there were 20 interesting things about the Portland Water Bureau? Think I’m joking? You haven’t met Jennie Day-Burget, Public Information Officer for the Bureau. Public information was never this engaging.
Armed with a successful blog and a growing Twitter following, Day-Burget provides a fascinating window into the life of city government. While the public sector is often late to catch on to tech trends due to tight budgets and old-fashioned bureaucracy, Day-Burget is taking advantage of the free and inexpensive social media tools available to anyone with an internet connection.
Whether it’s highlighting a water main during a winter freeze or posting a picture of the cutest koala bathing in a bucket, Day-Burget is doing to government communications what President Obama’s team did for political campaigns. Smart, edgy and informative, public information becomes must-read content in Day-Burget’s hands.
In December of 2007 when Day-Burget took over the blog, it had about 30,000 hits per month. One year later, hits had more than tripled to over 100K per month and January numbers had grown to 120K. But it’s not all about numbers either, it’s about exposure. Not only has the local paper, The Oregonian, started linking to “The Water Blog”, water conservation website leakbird.com is a fan and the blog has also been linked to in the New York Times Online. This kind of success with social media can be contagious.
Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard has Day-Burget to thank for his recent Twitter conversion. Her boss can be found twittering about his new tie right alongside talking about his official blog and other important city issues. And she isn’t stopping at the edge of her bureau’s domain, either. Day-Burget recently organized what she calls a “support group” of other communicators in municipal government. She explains, “We are all doing it, but not talking about it. Many of us are flying under the radar with our social media outreach.”
So, how much time does this public information officer spend keeping up on this outreach? Day-Burget says she spends about 3-4 hours a day on social media, but she finds that she can be stingy and make a bigger impact with traditional communication pieces like news releases, now that she has so many other ways to reach constituents on a more regular basis.
The next time you find yourself with a topic that seems too boring to communicate about, it’s possible that it is. It’s also possible, though, that you just need to breathe new life into it. Check out “The Water Blog” or follow @portlandwater on Twitter and you’ll discover a new way every day to make the run of the mill captivating for your audience.